About gracepaidforward

I am a grateful woman. A mom. A wife. A friend. A sister. A daughter. A Social Worker. Today, I honor all of these titles, but who I AM is a writer. I have always been a seeker with a need to document what I find and to note how it makes me feel. When I first started my blog, I did so because I was driven to move my fingers across the keyboard as exercise for my thoughts. A writing fitness class if you will. Today, I have turned my writing into a career. I am fulfilled within this career and am no longer unsure of claiming the title of "writer." I have found my voice within my pages and am committed, within my blog and outside of it, to connect with other creative "peeps" who are also finding their voice through words, through touch, through song, through art...whatever their creative outlet...I hope to be an inspiration.

Idle Time

Over many years I have read Deepak, Pema, Wayne, Eckhart, Rumi and so many others. Each one presents their spiritual messages differently, but the takeaway is consistent. In the past, although I had a voracious appetite for these messages, while still striving for busy, purposeful days, sometimes what I garnered was a bit confusing:

Go within. Reach out.  Forgive. Own fear. Fear is a liar. Stand Raw. Try. Hold on. Let go. Be in the now. Honor the past. Grab for the stars. Dig deep. Remember. Forget. Trust God. Trust yourself. Use Your voice. Stay quiet. Say Yes. Say No. Love deeply. Be still. Say what you mean, just don’t say it mean. Go Big. Be humble. Stay in the Middle. Risk the fringes. Make mistakes. Be a force. Be humble. Stand Raw. Try. Hold on. Let go.

Now, after forced time being still, I am not confused anymore.

Over the past seven weeks, laid up first from a car accident and now quarantined due to Covid-19, I have had lots of extra time on my hands. I used to be afraid of too much time, of idle time. It was more comfortable to keep moving, keep going, keep doing. Recently, while not being able to move or go or do much, I realized I could choose to take comfort in the stillness of my body and my thoughts. And so, in the tranquility of my home and the powerlessness out in the world, my thoughts are hopeful. They are willing. They are mine. I am safe with them.

Within these safe thoughts, I feel grace and gratitude for my life, for my family and for any administration making hard decisions right now. I do not allow thoughts like the ones which used to want me busy, to delude me into believing that I would know better, that I could know better, were I making these decisions myself. I choose to have faith and trust. I choose to believe that everyone will get still enough to see that we are all doing the best we can with what we have available to us. Standing in judgment is busy work and nowhere in the pages I have read by the spiritual guides I still choose to learn from, do I see that as part of their advice.

So, although I am not Deepak or Wayne or Pema, I too have a message:

Being comfortable while standing still is a cool decision. Trust takes work. Love is a choice. Risks are part of life. Laughter is essential, though it’s okay to cry. Others will believe what they want about you or the world at large. Although their reality may not be yours, you don’t have to convince them. Speak your truth, even when it’s hard. If someone asks, tell them. If they don’t, stay quiet and leave the rest up to them. And never, ever worry about being still. It’s where we find the answers.

“Yay, F–K” … Well, it’s True

Watching a Showtime series last night, the underlying message from the show’s finale episode was this:  “Life is basically, Yay, Fuck.” Yep, this was the show’s message, and the reality is, it is true. Right now, we are sitting in an extra-long stretch of the latter, so to say we are all under stress would be an understatement. Our amygdala’s are on overdrive and even our usual go-to fight, flight or freeze response has been affected, because in fact, there is absolutely nowhere to take flight to.

Right now, we have more time for introspection than any of us would like. With offices, restaurants, movie theaters, sporting arenas, malls and beaches closed, time is what we have in abundance. All the things we would normally do when we have time are not accessible. I am not even a regular manicure person, but I feel stir crazy not to be able to get one. And of course, my hair is at that, “I need it cut NOW” length. But a manicure or a haircut seem so trivial really. Last night, my high school BFF filled me in on the situation at the Brooklyn hospital where she works as a nurse manager. The pediatric and psychiatry units have been transformed into Covid care rooms and the running total at her hospital thus far is four hundred cases with many more coming in every moment and a death toll that is staggering. I would write more about what she said, but I fear it would only serve to create more stress for anyone who may take the time to read this blog. Suffice it to say, this virus MUST be taken seriously.

As much as I miss connecting in person with people, what I miss more is not worrying so much about the people I love, especially my son and daughter-in-law who are cooped up in their home office/living room in an area of Connecticut hit hard with this virus. I know I am not original in that I have never experienced anything like this, and from a spiritual perspective, I can’t help but wonder if we are being called to get quiet, very, very quiet.

And so, yes, I have gotten quiet. And in the stillness lies the realization that there is so much about my usual day to day world that I have taken for granted. A trip to the bank or to a store, coffee or dinner out, these things I have done without thinking. I hope that when we can once again get back out and pick up life as we knew it, that I will remember to appreciate what it was like not to be able to and thus be extra grateful.

I never realized how much I took for granted. I always knew I could say yes tomorrow to something or someone I put off in a today. Now that getting together in groups is disallowed, I want to go back in time and say yes to everything. I want people I love to know that I miss seeing them and being with them.

Across the nation there is a daunting sense of What if? What next? Who knows? An overall sense of fear, uncertainty and confusion. Many are afraid and working on that fear one hour at a time. Although I am disallowing fear from taking over, I am certainly pushing back against it on a regular basis. Every time I hear from a family member or friend up in New York or Connecticut and become privy to the extent of this Covid-19 nightmare up there, I pray, pray, pray for them/for all of us.

Today, this day, I wrote my gratitude list, made a promise to not dive in to fear and I prayed. I asked God to watch over and protect us all and, as a direct result of what we are going through, to make each of us a more empathic and generous human being. I asked that as a nation we may grow from this experience. I prayed this morning that all of us, no matter what political party we stand for, can let go of animosity and discord and hold on to community, love and honor for each other.

I prayed especially for my son and daughter-in-law, and all the rest of my family and friends. I prayed for each one of us, for our doctors, nurses, police officers, firefighters, EMT’s and all other first responders, for teachers and all workers being of service, for our President, our government, our politicians, our CEO’s, for everyone, everywhere in our nation and beyond.

My eyes are open to how difficult this is for every single one of us. I want all of you workers and leaders to know that I see you and how tirelessly you are trying. I see your efforts. Please know that, in case you feel unnoticed or attacked or discouraged in your efforts. May God Bless you one and all. May God Bless all of us one and all. Wishing love, peace, good health and serenity at this challenging, scary and confusing time and always.

The Richness in Our Elders

Over the past two years, I spent a large percentage of time working with the elderly and infirmed; most had a diagnosis of some form of dementia. This work proved to be both rewarding and disheartening and, as with most things I have taken on in my life, I had no idea what I was getting into when I started. Every day, as I sought resources which would better enable aging clients to maneuver within their lives, I was reminded that toys, money, accolades and trophies become somewhat meaningless towards the end of life. It’s ironic really, because we spend so much time amassing, clutching and grabbing for things as we go along, things which, after reaching old age, inevitably wind up in the back of a closet, or in a box in the attic or basement. In far too many cases, I bore witness, to someone’s treasures becoming curbside pickup when a family cleaned out their parents’ home to either move them into an elder care facility or bury them after they passed away.

So often, I stood looking at framed certificates touting master’s degrees or Doctorates earned by one of the older men or women I was privileged enough to assist. These degrees enabled some of these same folks to amass plenty of disposable cash. But I’d bet my own last dollar that each one of the folks who earned these accolades or saved this money, would give up claim to all of it for better vision or hearing, improved cognitive health or greater mobility.

It was very hard to not get too attached to the elderly men and women I worked with; but after all, how could I not? In truth, I believe I always will attach no matter how hard I try not to. This is largely because so few of the folks I assisted had viable peer support. Some had an aide or a physical therapist, but rarely did they have someone from which to receive the benefit of regular hugs. Former clients may have lived in lovely facilities, buildings with marble foyers and grand stairways, but they still ate their meals virtually alone, even when at a table full of others. Particularly, at the memory care facilities, so many in the dining room struggled to concentrate on eating, leaving neither energy nor mental capacity for engaging and socializing with table mates. For so many older individuals, meal time or hobby time do not hold the same joy as they did in the past. Yes, there are Bingo games and movie nights. There are crafts and even shopping trips, but with walkers, wheelchairs, hearing aids and other necessary devices, the payoff for attending events or field trips is trumped by the stress of the logistics involved in participating. Sadly, it seems that for too many elders in our society, companionship and sociability come with a price.

Looking at life from a clinical perspective, it seems that we, those who still have our vision, have lost sight. The enormous amounts of energy often spent arguing about the sad state of the nation on social media could be channeled and shifted into getting involved on a neighborhood level; involved with someone watching the world from a very lonely vantage point. Perhaps they are living alone in assisted living, or struggling with dementia in a locked ward. These people are right down the street and up the road from where you live.

I wonder what would happen if we channeled the rage that drives posts, tweets and chats and shifted it into compassion for the forgotten citizens, the ones who are not capable of posting angry rants, and are instead living with inner torment due to deterioration of their bodies, minds and spirits. These non-tweeting people have so much to offer in life experience, but they are too often tucked away and living lonely, dismissed and undervalued. I think we, as a society, are missing something very important by allowing this loneliness. I wish we could look around more and really see, instead of always reacting before we stop to. If we did this, I believe we would recognize the vast resource currently tucked away with the forgotten generation.

Once we recognized it, we might then realize how much we can learn from our seniors! How I wish more and more of us would take a chance, visit some of these elders and start asking them to share a few stories. Ask them for advice. They have so much to tell us and so many stories; stories of resilience and courage, of heartache and joy, of wars and epidemics, of hatred and love. We have so much we could be learning from our eldest generation if we only stopped to see them and to ask. Continue reading

9/11 and Resiliency

This morning, September 11th, I was taking an early walk before work. As I walked, I reflected on another September day years ago, remembering where I was the moment I heard; it was a conference room in Massachusetts where colleagues had gathered for an early AM meeting. I remember all too vividly that morning and the disbelief that followed me like a shadow for a long time afterwards; a morning which permanently altered my spirit and so many other spirits in our country and the world.

This morning as I walked and reflected, sending out heartfelt energy to my brothers, sister in law, cousins, extended family and friends who were touched both physically and emotionally as an all too direct result of that day, a Martin County firefighter walked towards me. He was in full gear with an American flag draped over his shoulders. He was determined and purposeful, making a proud and glorious statement on a very somber day; a statement about resilience and service. I was so touched to see him.

I stopped and we spoke for a moment. As we did, I noted how drenched he was with perspiration; here in Florida the heat was already well under way for the day. All I could think of was that the warmth he was experiencing was nothing…in comparison…we both acknowledged that.

As I made a loop and u-turned back on my route, I saw him again. This time there were two other county public servants who had joined him. I asked if I could take their photo and share it. They gave permission and then we four had a moment of reflection, of honor and of glory. I thank those men for the statement they are making today.

God Bless them and their fellow brothers and sisters in service. And God Bless America, the land of the free and resilient and the home of the brave.

CAP and GOWN

My cap and gown hang in the closet waiting for graduation. The Phi Alpha cord and stole are draped over the hanger; their blue and gold fringe hang down to the floor. And every time I open the closet door and see them, I am brought to tears. You would think they should be tears of joy, of elation, of purpose and of hope for what lies ahead. Tears expressing completion and finishing, accomplishment and learning. And yet, they are tears of sorrow and grief. Tears of wishing I did this younger and of hoping it’s not too late to make a difference…

When I started this Master’s program with its 2 year internship attached, my goal was to become a therapist and yes, I have arrived at a place to be able to do this now. A place where I will help others to not have to writhe and wrangle through life the way I have done for decades while trying to press back against past trauma. I just knew that God was asking me to strive to pass along some of the “work” I have done; to make an effort to help to offset some of the pain others may experience along their life journeys. And so, I set out on the path.

But just because it is time to give back on a deeper level, and just because you are ready to heed God’s call to your spirit, that does not mean that your life or those you love within it will be able to see or to understand just what you have embarked on. It does not mean that God will hold back on delivering challenges. It does not mean that you will easily have the vigor to hold on to what you know and already have in your energy fields and yet still make room for all you are asked to take in.

With so many lectures these past years, there were tugs and tears. The classes on grief brought up every loss of my past and the all too close present; the lectures on divorce and its effects on children felt like bullets to my soul because I knew none of this when I made my own choices around that subject. I just didn’t know. Studies on polyvagal theory and neuroplasticity blew my mind, very literally blew my mind, because I could actually feel electrical sparks of understanding coursing through my brain as I learned; I really could feel them.

The power point presentations on rape and its after effects could have been taken from my CV. Those on childhood trauma transported me more than once to the long ago; bruising my little girl spirit again, yet again. Still, I wanted to learn more. I wanted to understand more and understand I did.

And now, at this milestone moment, it has become clear that amid all the learning and the A-OK’s, amid the holding my breath while trying not to be triggered, there is additional learning. I never in my wildest imaginings believed that I would be called to process still more, this when I have spent the last year striving so hard to finish so that life could get more relaxed.

I am reminded of what a professor explained to me when I sought her counsel in the first semester after a death in the family. She told me that she grows more adept in her practice every day, as she learns more about herself through dealing with life’s challenges. She also said that because of past trauma, it was important to be vigilant in maintaining breathing space during my learning; this in order to detach each day because the stuff we were studying could kick things up. And in the middle of the kicking up, new challenges abounded all the while. I have been grateful for this professor’s messages at the moments I had mental space to remember her wisdom, because she helped me keep on. I remember a moment where she looked me in the eyes and I knew that she understood. It felt like a long time since I believed someone could. I remember her telling me about all the mistakes she has made which press her forward in her clinical practice. I recall her reminding me not to look for understanding from others in this work, because I would be left wanting, but merely to do it.

But to not seek understanding from those we love when we feel we need it is not easy for humans, especially because all the while, all along the course of this learning, in my life outside class there was loss, there was death, there was illness and challenge. Yes, there was still suiting up and showing, even when the armor grew heavier atop the burdens of this emotional learning. There seemed not space enough to either ask for understanding or to understand. Yet, all the while, there was needing and wanting and tired. There was ever so much tired. And being in my mid 50’s, there was also the lack of cooperation from my unrecognizable body and ever so much heat constantly coursing through me, though I kept attempting to deny what was going on.

When my clinical year started and I set out for an elder certification, all I could see in the eyes of my clients was my mother; my deceased mom who just like many of them both wanted help and refused it at the same time. Counter transference at its finest. I saw dad too in the spirits of cancer patients writhing in pain and in the eyes of Alzheimer sufferers, former corporate giants who could no longer pick up a fork or brush their teeth. Every paper I wrote for two years was with a personal experience in mind. And I kept wishing, and wishing, that I was younger and had less references to pull from. Oh, how I wished I had not already “been there done that” as I wrote and wrote and wrote.

The lectures on drug addiction were unbearable. They hit too close to home on so very many levels. The professor’s solution of offering sanctuary to addicts incited a wish to stand up and scream at the insanity of what she was teaching. I wondered if the instructor had walked the streets of LA trying to find a stepdaughter the way I had the year before. Had she seen the addict’s and dealer’s tents pitched everywhere, infringing on the city the way I had? Had she ridden in the back of a police car and heard the pain in the officer’s voice as he spoke of the hopelessness of any solution? Did she know that the subject she was touting was shaking my home? My family? My security? Did she know? And then came the exams where I was called to put aside personal knowledge and access the answers I was being taught; answers which I know are not really the answers, not really.

It seems that the years of being immersed in these lessons and these reminders have taken a deeper toll that I ever imagined. The Masters graduate wants to stand proud, but the little girl in me really, ever so badly, needs a hug. OK little girl here goes; here’s a big fat squeeze. Can you feel it? Now then, go ahead and put one foot in front of the other as the woman in you promised she would, because perhaps down the road, there may be someone, somewhere who will be served because of something passed along to them from all this learning. Maybe then it will seem that it has been worth it.

We Can All Give Back Right Now

Thus far, in my last year of graduate school for clinical social work, I have spent approximately 450 hours working as a clinical intern “out in the field.” My clients have ranged from elders with Alzheimer’s disease to teenage girls operating under thick defensive armor in order just to survive, let alone thrive, in today’s middle schools.

I feel blessed for these opportunities, but it is hard to see what I am looking at.

What I have witnessed are elders who are alone, even sometimes while living with others. I see visually and hearing impaired women and men trying to cope whilst their caregivers lack the ability to “get” what  lack of vision or hearing actually means. I am exposed to medical offices that, even though they have extensive records, don’t seem to know much about the patient who is calling. Some of these same offices have asked me, the advocate, what paperwork the client needs to get specific medical help; this when I have called them to find out; this after I have been kept on hold for over an hour. Yes, this has happened to me more than once, more than thrice.

I have had physician’s staff call patient’s with dementia (rather than the caregiver) to remind them of appointments and then been asked to help with the frightened fallout. I have come into someone’s home while a chicken pot pie was burning because she couldn’t smell the smoke or hear the timer. I have been told by an 89 year old woman that she slept with an aluminum baseball bat under her bed just in case of another break-in, because she couldn’t dial the phone; thankfully, she now has an assisted device to do so. Hopefully she will never have to make the call.

Trying to assist some of these elders with medical logistics is a full-time job. There is lost paperwork, hours on hold, lack of transportation, financial stress, but most of all there is a lack of empathy. And I am left to wonder, how we can as a society begin to repair the many breakdowns in communication between a loved one and their caregiver; between the family and an advocate; between everyone and the doctor’s offices.

As for the young folks, I now understand that they should:  1. Never send a text unless they are OK with it being screen-shotted to half the school. 2. Not expect to sit with selected friends in the cafeteria, because seats are assigned. 3. Not expect to vent or have too much fun in same cafeteria; and definitely not get up from the table without permission. 3. Prepare, and be ready to take a stand, even though they may not yet have all the information needed before taking that stand. 4. Not report someone for bullying, because if they do, they are subject, along with the person bullied, to be written up; this is firsthand information from two high school-ers this happened to.

Now, it is possible that I am getting misinformed, but from what I see, from what I hear, from what I encounter and from the kids (both young and old) who share their burdens, things are not working very well in our society. I asked one struggling young middle school girl why she thought she was so angry. She said, “because I always feel like I have to take a stand. I always feel like I am supposed to stick up for myself and because I can’t trust anyone.”

So, my dreams and goals to help others seem daunting. However, I am hopeful. Hopeful that there are lots of others out there who want to help too and who are willing to learn the best way how. Here’s my thought:  Take a moment today, as soon as you can, to decide to understand a teenager or an elder. Know that they are up against challenges that you will not easily understand, either because you are not yet “there,” or because things were a helluva lot different when you were in middle school. But try to understand. Ask them questions. Make them put their cell phone down or in the case of an elder, teach them how to use one. Look them in the eye. Ask them what is hard for them. Find out what they love.

You can help right here, right now. Will you please work to try to do so? There are so many who need it. Spread the willingness. Spread the hope. Spread the love. By doing so, you can help to change the world.

On Using Your Voice in America

Although finding our voice and learning to use it is a huge part of life’s journey, the way we are teaching our children to do so today, the way we are communicating as a nation is truly heartbreaking. People are screaming so loud that you can’t even hear them anymore. Did you hear me? I said, “PEOPLE ARE SCREAMING SO LOUD THAT YOU CAN’T EVEN HEAR THEM ANYMORE!!” So, is it any wonder there is so much violence and rage with our young people today? Is it any wonder?

Is it any wonder, when we are surrounded by negativity; by so many raging against our very brothers and sisters in public office? The insanity that children are being taught today is not the fault of “them,” it is the fault of each one of us who accepts it. I haven’t even looked at who won or lost the elections yet this morning, because it has begun to feel as if it doesn’t even matter; instead I am digesting how happy I am that at least for now, the ugliness is over. My recycle bin will get a break at the very least.

I am exhausted by what went on prior to election day yesterday here in my neighborhood. Local commercials based only on slander. Mailbox fillers every day filled with hate. Posts and Tweets and Articles and Videos…filled with nothing but hate, hate, hate.

I don’t know how we got here, but it did not start this year or even last. It did not start with one man or with two or with one woman or three. It did not start with the last election or this. It did not start with this Congress. It started as a ripple effect some time ago and it worsens rapidly and exponentially because so many seem to be forgetting that we are today, tomorrow and always, supposed to be human. We are supposed to try and hope and guide and reach high. We are supposed to be brothers and sisters and tap into compassion and grace. To aim high for the stars instead of low at the jugular.

I hope, pray, and yes, do believe…that we can find peace. But first, each one of us has to be accountable to stop the hate right in our own home, in our own mailbox, on our own television and in our own heart. Right here, right now.

I hope you will join me. I hope you will try.

Ethics Class

I just finished a summer ethics class within graduate social work studies. The class was an elective, which surprised me, because for social work clinicians, regularly faced with dilemmas involving client’s differing personal, spiritual, cultural and political belief systems, I’d have thought it would be compulsory.

The reason I chose this, one of four required electives, was for exposure to specific potential challenges and to be taught creative problem solving-strategies and academic approaches to potential bias situations I may encounter down the line.

Throughout class-time, we were asked to look at various scenarios involving what we individually feel is right, is less right and is more right, and to give input on ways to resourcefully work towards resolution. For many hours, we looked at a variety of ethical dilemmas and were guided to, supposedly without allowing judgment, work towards outcomes that could be accepted, if not by all, by most.

And then it came time to work collaboratively on our final “Ethical Dilemma” paper with chosen group members. My group was intentionally just myself and another student who thankfully, thankfully, thankfully, has a similar work ethic to mine. Some of my peers chose larger groups with as many as four students, but since I have “been there, done that” over the past year with group projects, I was not interested in ever again taking a chance by putting my grade in the hands of several other people.

A few days before the paper’s due date, a fellow student called me to ask for advice. Her reaching out to seek peer counsel, was very much part of the strategies we learned in class and is, in fact, something I have used regularly within both my earlier professional life and personal life. I was pleased that she felt comfortable enough to ask for my help. It turns out, the student was dealing with an ethical dilemma within her writing group. This was of course ironic given that the paper was to be an academic template of how to handle another ethical dilemma, one assigned by the professor. She was up against a partner who refused to accept constructive criticism for typos, misspellings, citation errors, or any additions or deletions to her work on their google doc. This, although everyone will receive the same grade on the paper, a grade which will be based beyond content, on each of these things. She asked me what to do.

…As an aside, you really gotta love google docs, really you do. Each time I open one and work with another person simultaneously, I realize that I truly have lived two lives; one as a dinosaur with a typewriter in my undergraduate studies and the other today…

My suggestion to my peer was to make any truly necessary grammatical corrections on their google doc and to ask her group members to help her in letting the other student know that any corrections were by no means personal (I really thought she should say, “get the bleep over it beeeatch,” but that did not seem very ethical). Over the next two days, she reached out several times, because not only did she begin receiving hateful text messages from the group member attacking her character, her ethnicity and her very being, but none of the other group members were availing themselves to help. While wanting to be of service to my friend and to offer helpful suggestions, ethically I knew that I could not be in the middle while only communicating with one side of the challenge, so all I could think to suggest was that she contact the professor, apprise him of the very ironic ethical dilemma on her hands, and ask for his advice (I also told her to be sure to put her shoulders back and her chin up and make sure she kept breathing and stuff like that too though).

She was hesitant to contact the professor, expressing that she did not want to cause any trouble for any of her group members, and finally, because the paper was due, she allowed it to be handed in. Later, she contacted me to let me know that after the deadline, she did in fact, reach out to the professor and received response that there would be communication between him and the entire group. She also said that she was now willing to share what she had experienced. It turns out, the other girl had reached out to the professor as well, so I can only hope that there will be a resolution that is the most right for all concerned.

As for our final paper, my partner and I worked well together for several weeks. We researched, read articles and books, and spoke to political organizations as we garnered data from dozens of citation sources. We edited, re-edited and re-re-edited, so much so that when we handed in our work on the due date, we knew without a doubt that it was an “A” paper; in fact, we were absolutely certain. However, when I woke up this morning, logged on, and saw our posted grade, it was an “A minus.“ My first thought was to be “Ticked off.” This thought was followed by a second thought which was to be VERY “TICKED OFF,” but thankfully, both of these thoughts were quickly followed by a third thought which was a very gentle, loving one. It was the thought of gratitude for the experience, because as much as I really, really hate the minus at the end of that “A,” I feel blessed. The gratitude stemmed from the realization that I could neither put a grade nor a price tag on what I learned outside the classroom, as I tried to help my fellow student with her emotional paper challenge. It stemmed as well from the understanding that, as far as I am concerned, our grade, my partner and mine, is an A+++ for the way we collaborated, learned from one another and kept an open mind as we sought solution. Perhaps, at the end of the day this is all that matters.

What I have realized this year, after waiting with bated breath through more than a dozen classes and two internships for please dear God, please an “A,” is that at the end of the day it is NOT about the “A,” but about what we learn and about what we are willing to take with us out into the world. In my case, within my practice, this will be a fabulously intense desire to be of service and to honor willingness, both my own and that of others.

 

 

A weary graduate student in today’s classrooms…

I am a student – Let me learn 

Let me try – Let me taste 

Let me save – and not waste 

Let me ask – for to tell 

And not buy into hell

- - - 

As a student – Let me soar

Let past whimpers – yield a roar 

Let both eyes see no blame

And both ears hear no shame

- - -

As my teacher – Help me learn

Help me love – never hate

Seek to inspire – Not berate 

Help me absorb what is right

Not buy in to the fight  

- - - 

As a student – let me be still 

Let my mind block until…

Let my pen stop the rage

Let my heart fill the page

Paterfamilias

photo

We went to a family wedding yesterday and during the reception it hit me that we, my brothers, sister, cousins and I, are now the matriarchs and patriarchs of our family. There is no longer a table where the older generation holds court; there were no place settings for our moms, dads, aunts and uncles, because they are all in heaven now. We, those that used to be the middle generation (wasn’t it just yesterday?), are now the family elders. As such, we have a responsibility to pass along to our sons, daughters, nieces, nephews, cousins and grandchildren, all the stories and love that we received from those who are gone.

Yesterday, watching one of the “kids” get married and move forward into his future caused a tug at my heart. There were other tugs as I listened during the reception about the castles young guests are building in the air, as businessmen and women; tugs because I remembered the ones of sand that cousins built on the beach together some years back. It is clear those expressing their young successes have no idea of the many personal lessons which likely lie ahead of them; nor should they. They are unaware of the experiences that will change them, the lessons they won’t want but will certainly need, as they maneuver their way through to the next level of placement within their own families. They do not yet know that they will do this maneuvering by sometimes coming together and sometimes pulling away, hopefully more often the former. And one day, likely well into the future, these children who are no longer children will look back and realize that at the times in their lives they thought they were sure, they in fact knew so little.

It can almost seem that once you realize what life is all about, it is too late; too late to tell everyone how much you always cared; so, you want to go back and grab hold of all the times you didn’t know … and make them right. You want to be sure the important people know that you would have been more open and less defensive, more secure and less frightened. You would have given more generously from your heart, no matter how much was or was not in your wallet, and you would have been around more often to love big, so very, very big.

When the pastor spoke of all who were missing at the wedding yesterday, his words touched a tender place; more tender still as the bride and groom opened a box to release several butterflies in their honor. It was a profound moment for us patriarchs and matriarchs, but one that very likely went over the heads of the millennial’s in attendance, because they still have two generational shifts to go before they are paterfamilias.

I thought of Aunt Pat, Uncle Tommy, Mom, Dad, KK and Pop, of Uncle Ed, Aunt Marion and so many others who were part of our Sunday reunion ukulele sing-alongs. As I did, I had to catch my heart before it wandered too far. I had to catch it and bring it back to the wedding service and the two souls before me, souls very much alive and committing to their sacred contract. I took a moment to pray a silent prayer for them and to ask God to make their lessons a bit less painful than the elders and mine have been. And then I clapped with joy as groom kissed bride.

And in a most fitting way, today, the day after this revelation, happens to be Mother’s Day. No matter whether you believe in celebrating this assigned meaning day or not, after a long hiatus of graduate school papers getting in the way, I am again compelled to write on this date. I take a formal moment to consider and honor family both here and gone, those who truly matter to my heart. It gives me great comfort to do so, because I know that this would please them, especially mom.

Typing these words helps me honor her and to honor my baby sister who did not make the wedding, and who today both celebrates her daughters and grieves the boy taken too young. It seems so often that life asks you to do both simultaneously; to grieve and be joyful. I also honor the great joy my family holds for me today and all the hopes and dreams I have for everyone who makes up that family. There are such possibilities ahead for all of us. Thank you to the generations who helped pave the way for all of us.